Blog·HR Management

January 15, 2021

Looking Ahead to 2021: 3 Top Priorities for HR

2021 is the year HR can turn focus to the future and truly prepare team members for any occasion. Our top priorities reveal how this can be achieved in 3 ways.

2020 has been a challenging year. HR teams have been called to deal with many unforeseeable workforce forces due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In this article, we will highlight the main areas to prioritize focus on in order to be better prepared for 2021.

From reskilling your workforce to preparing for the automation of roles, there are a lot of changes coming in the new year that for some could present great challenges. Nevertheless, with the right strategy, any organization can prepare for these new forces and use them to exceed their potential and flourish as they grow into the future. We've summarized the three priorities for HR so that you can become a part of the great bounce back from the chaos and disruption of the past 12 months.

1. Workforce skills

Critical skill-building is a top priority, it will be critical for HR leaders to understand critical skill gaps and to effectively incorporate learning opportunities into employee workflows. Not only is this fundamental to fostering employee growth, but it’s also an established business priority that can improve overall excellence, growing the business and innovating for success along the way.

The Need for Reskilling in 2021

50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025, as the adoption of technology increases

COVID-19 has accelerated the departure from the office. A sudden and seismic shift to remote work has meant that in a very short space of time the employee experience has been significantly reimagined. This change presents HR departments with a unique and puzzling challenge to determine what needs to be done to ensure employees remain engaged with their work and continue to complete tasks in a productive manner.

Technology has been fundamental to enabling organizations to continue working under the restrictions of national and local lockdowns. As the reliability of remote connectivity becomes exponentially more accessible, hurdles that would have previously hindered employees have been overcome.

As we witness these marvelous advances in technological development, the digitization of the world of work presents further complexities. Artificial intelligence is accelerating automation in a large proportion of jobs. Organizations must now prepare for the future and the longer-term roles of their employees. In adapting to these changes, there is a very apparent need for employees to reskill in order to take on new responsibilities in their roles.

By 2025, an estimated 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least five days a month

Value of Reskilling

Preparing people for the challenges of tomorrow

At the heart of reskilling, the focus of HR departments and leaders is to give employees the best opportunities to be equipped in handling any unpredictable roles of the future. The future is uncertain. Therefore we must train employees with core skills will provide organizations with a better-prepared workforce.

A workforce that is resilient and can adapt to new situations is far better suited to an unpredictable work environment. In comparison, a team of specialized individuals often lack the necessary skills to handle any issues that they have not previously dealt with.

Making people more flexible to deal with the current situation

The aftermath of 2020 will remain with us throughout this whole year. The old 'normal' is a distant memory and the new working day is almost unrecognizable from a year ago. For many the anguish of commuting has been forgotten, our channels of communication are far more formalized and for employees with children, childcare has become part of their daily routine.

It is important to bear all of this in mind when considering how you wish to see your organization grow. Charting a course for your company that is considerate of the precarious position of your employees will be beneficial for issuing training programs that are mutually constructive. Distribute reskilling tasks based on the candidates who can gain the most from this learning.

Helping employees create new paths forward

In adapting to the new situation, your employees have already learned a lot. Use this moment to encourage their continued development and provide learning opportunities for a range of skills.

The value of reskilling employees is its capacity to fill a range of skill gaps in an organization. Training programs will broaden the skills of your workforce as opposed to concentrating them in one specific area. Therefore, even when team members are uncertain about how they wish to develop, they can learn new abilities that will facilitate better handling of a wider range of responsibilities.

Future Trends in the World of Work

2. Future of work

HR leaders are focused on the future, with 32% identifying it as a top priority for 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has played a major role in shaping the future of work, leading to new questions about post-COVID trends, and how to plan for both immediate and long-term adjustments.

From more employees working remotely to the importance of crisis response, HR leaders will need to determine which future of work trends are most relevant to their business to inform the future of work planning.

Wellbeing in the workplace

According to a global survey by Forbes, it became evident over the past year that wellbeing has been put to the forefront of attention for many organizations. Maximizing productivity was put on the back burner. Increasingly leaders saw the value in ensuring the good health of their team members.

There is a greater appreciation for the mental health of employees and how this affects performance at work. Opening this dialogue in a work environment will lead to more transparency and a safer psychological space for employees. This is especially important as people maintain work from home policies. Remote working presents fewer opportunities for team members to informally interact with each other.

Going into the future, the dynamic of the workplace will adapt to more remote social interactions. HR takes on an ever more important role in ensuring that employees are coping with the different working arrangements. Coming up with new ways to encourage remote socializing is an important part of promoting team building and maintaining employee morale.

78% employees negatively impacted by mental health

Evolving responsibilities

Beyond changes to the way we access our work, the future of work presents new horizons in terms of the type of work we will be doing. Forces such as automation and AI are contributing to the creation of a vast range of new jobs and roles.

The demand for software developers and other tech-orientated roles is growing exponentially. As individuals from Generation Z, the first wave of digital native-workers start to enter the world of work, they are going to significantly benefit from their fluency and confidence with using tech.

It will be older and less tech-savvy employees that will be pressured to reskill. So senior executives watch out! Even today, only a very finite amount jobs are fulfilled without the need for a computer or other digital technology.

The responsibilities of team members will shift to work with their algorithms. A cooperative approach between man and machine is what lies ahead for many in the future of work.

HR departments will have to find a solution to ameliorate the interactions between team members and their tools.Finding a means to promote productivity and maintaining a socially enriched experience of work is a hurdle that lies ahead for future HR. Maintaining good levels of engagement is crucial to this.

3. Leadership capacity

Decision making in such an uncertain environment is beyond difficult. Even the leaders of nation-states have struggled to devise the most suitable solution in response to the pandemic. Therefore, communicate this commonality of uncertainty in order to promote solidarity with your employees.

2021 is expected to bring big changes to the way we work and the types of work we perform. Consequently, prepare your employees for this. Align your team with the company vision, adapting for the disruptions caused in the last year. Leaders can prepare employees for change by promoting the opportunities that lie ahead with plans for reskilling.

As teams remain distanced from each other, there will continue to be difficulties in promoting strong social relations on all sides. As communication remains formalized with pre-arranged meetings and check-ins, the informal social aspect of work is deteriorating. This is not sustainable for any organization.

HR departments can attempt to improve engagement and motivation through monitoring pulse surveys and other means of employee feedback. Nevertheless, it is up to leaders to inspire the organization as a whole to believe in the company objectives. Rallying the troops through the medium of a screen is not the most desirable platform to engage employees. Regardless, this may be the best approach to inspire your workforce's onwards development.


Making a greater effort to recognize and reward individual efforts will be valuable for employee engagement. Providing a system that promotes the contributions of all in the workforce will be vital to preventing feelings of isolation.

It is up to leaders to better understand the needs of their workforce. They must be prepared to adapt with them as the year unfolds. 2021 and the future of work can be a time of significant growth through better teamwork, collaboration and innovation.

HR Priorities in 2021

This year presents some great opportunities to reinvent the wheel of HR. Employees and leaders alike must overcome very new challenges. In terms of dealing with these new hurdles, there is a lot to be gained from observing and calculating an approach that is considerate of the top priorities discussed above.

The future of work will always inevitably become a reality. Predictable or not, we must act and prepare for the changes that it may bring with it This is why an approach that can incorporate this uncertainty is a strength.

Promoting the reskilling of your workforce creates the best possibility to prepare employees. Taking a more agile approach to the future of work prevents organizations from unveiling significant skill gaps. By training and educating employees in competencies as opposed to specialized roles will generate much more resilient human capital.

Competency-based roles are far more dynamic and can therefore fuse far more easily with algorithms and other technological advances that might come about in the workplace. At the same time, leaders that present genuinely beneficial training programs for their employees will receive considerable gains. Encouraging the development of employees on a personal level is great for the individual and equally productive for an organization.

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